Thursday, April 25, 2013

KRK Ryden Book Signing for Double Talk

Double Talk by KRK Ryden
Book Signing this Sat April 27, 3-5pmJoin us this Saturday at the gallery where you can get copies of Double Talk and have them signed by KRK Ryden himself!
Double Talk is a book of illustrated homographs from KRK Ryden. The hard-bound, 114-page book---KRK's first---features 51 black-and-white illustrations and a short essay about the artist.
Video of KRK Ryden reading excerpts

BONUS!Ken the Magic Corner God, featuring the theramin-playing skills of KRK Ryden will serenade us all with a cacophony of electronic sound and noise.
Original works by KRK Ryden that appear in his book will be for sale at this book signing event.
Map to Varnish Fine Art

16 Jessie Street, #C120, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415)433-4400

Friday, April 12, 2013

Varnish Owners/Directors Jen Rogers & Kerri Stephens Chat with Genea Barnes of

Genea Barnes of the blog, stopped by Varnish to talk to Jen and Kerri about their thoughts on the San Francisco art scene and running a contemporary art gallery in the City by the Bay.

Chatting with Jen Rogers & Kerri Stephens of Varnish Fine Art  (San Francisco) What is your background in the art world, and what brought you to opening Varnish Fine Art?

Kerri Stephens: I didn’t go to art school, I just went to a (state) university. They had a good art program. Right after school I went to work in a bronze foundry in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And, it ended up being a bronze foundry here in Berkeley where Jen and I met. We were doing sculpture, and meeting a ton of amazing sculptors, some big-time sculptors. We did work for Peter Voulkos, Nathan Oliveira,  (Stephen) de Staebler, and all those guys. We kinda' got sick of working for five bucks an hour, and decided: since we knew all these great artists-- pretty much everyone that worked at the foundry were amazing craftsmen and were really good artists in their own right-- lets open up a gallery so that we can show some sculpture and show all our friends' work and all this great stuff, and have it be a place that’s not stuffy, a little bit more inviting, and a place where people can come hang out. We had this idea of a salon style venue; where people could come and meet the artists, and hang out and talk about art and stuff. That was our big vision at the beginning. When we opened our first space, we had big concrete floors...

Jen Rogers: We showed a lot of sculptors partly because of our background working at a bronze art foundry.

BM: Why is it important for you to bring art to the public?

JR: We were seeing not so many places showing the kind of artwork that we like, so we figured hey, we’re just always going to show what we like. We still do, and people love it, so it worked. It was a gamble at first because a lot of the galleries that we went to, we weren’t really digging it. And yet, we were working at the foundry, and hanging out with all of our art friends and seeing incredible artwork produced all the time. It just wasn’t in galleries. 

KS: And our kind of M.O. (in curating) is (showing) stuff that we like, art that is really provocative, and a little edgy, stuff that makes people think about art a little bit more, not just stuff that people can hang on their parent's walls; stuff that we feel was and is important socially, and politically. We really try to stick to our guns about showing that kind of artwork.

BM: Why did you leave the old location?                                                                            
JR: It was torn down… Because the bulldozer knocked it over. It was a huge eminent domain fight... we put everything into that building (the original gallery space) to open Varnish and then 5 weeks after we opened we heard the city wanted to knock the building down. We had seismically retro-fitted it and made this beautiful gorgeous space. It was a historic building, too. So yeah... that’s gone. We left there and we were pretty pissed about it. We had this kind of make-shift wrecking ball sculpture (in the gallery) and right before we left, we all took turns pushing it around and kind of smashing the walls inside. Not to do too much damage, but it was super fun to do that--let off a little steam--and then we went off and licked our wounds. And then we found this space (at 16 Jessie St.) It worked out in the end. But for a year and a half we were dealing art from just a little office in the Hobart Building. Which worked for a while but was super lonely. We didn’t have a showroom, we had a file folder. And we had Layla working in there. It’s great to be landed here, and this is a great space.

BM: What have been the significant changes from that space to this space, as far as clientele, momentum, accessibility?                                                                                              

JR: It’s pretty huge actually. At the old location we had a wine bar. It was a nice little adjunct to the gallery and the inception of our name (Varnish) from "varnishing day," the night that people would varnish their paintings and drink wine with their friends--that’s where the opening reception came from-- and we had wine all the time, so we said “Varnish.” Having the wine bar was great, but it did divide our time somewhat. So we have really been able to focus (on dealing art only) in the almost two years that we’ve been open here, and also the year and a half that we were dealing art in the Hobart building. We’ve been able to really refine everything that we do with the gallery, and now we also sell publications, here and online, we have a lot of books. That’s been great. This spot here is smaller, but we’ve been more mobile. We’ve done a lot of art fairs. We’re also talking to a lot of other art dealers, on the East Coast and here, showing some of the artists that we represent now, exclusively, and setting up shows for them. We also recently started a pop-up in Oakland with Chuck Sperry and his screen-printing shop. That’s pretty fun.

BM: Besides what you have already talked about, what do you look for in the art you exhibit and the artists that you represent?

JR: A few things. There has to be a high degree of craftsmanship in whatever the medium is and there also has to be a real dedication to being a professional artist. Because it’s hard-ass work and people that approach it as a hobby, it doesn’t really respect your craft, so we tend to shy away from that. I’ve joined the board for Visual Aid and that’s a really cool non-profit that’s been around for 24 years, it’ll be 25 years next year. It’s kind of a safety net for artists that have life threatening illness. That’s kind of a big thing that I’ve been doing that Kerri’s been helping out a lot with too; trying to help out that organizations because it’s one of the few that’s there for artists that may not have any resources, and most don’t. It’s one of the few that I’ve heard about in the world. It’s pretty cool.

BM: How would you describe the art community in San Francisco and how do you feel it is different than in other cities?

KS: Well, I think there’s a few different communities in the city. It seems like every time you’re talking about "the art scene" you’ve got the old school, the middle school, and the new school coming in. I think in San Francisco, there’s still a lot of really big control by the old-school art community. You’ve got the old ceramicists movement from the 60′s and 70′s, they’re still big and strong here. You’ve got the big 49 Geary galleries that are still showing a lot of that kind of work, and the SFMoMA that’s still pretty conceptual in its ideas of what kind of art they’re bringing in and what kind of art they’re looking for the new SECA awards, and then you have what we’re showing. We show a lot of mid career artists, we’re not so much showing emerging artists anymore, but artists that are established a little bit and are really working it. I think, because that’s what we are mostly doing, that I know more about (that community) I think that community is really strong. I think there’s a lot of support for each other. It seems like the artist community here is like "this guy’s having a show, that guy’s having a show" (promoting each other)… everyone kinda' supports each other, really strongly. I also think Oakland… a lot of artists have since moved to Oakland since it’s so expensive here (SF), that the scene in Oakland is huge, super supportive and really vibrant and exciting. There’s a lot of really exciting sculpture, intense sculpture, different fire-art type stuff and all kinds of different new sculpture that’s happening out there. I think that really adds to the vibrancy. It comes over to San Francisco a little bit, however over there it’s just super exciting. It’s just a bunch of new art coming in that makes the Bay Area a really exciting place for artists.

BM: How do you feel that that is different than other big cities, LA, New York? Do you feel like it’s different, or do you feel they have a similar thing going on?

KS: Well, I don’t know too much. It seems like it’s a little bit tougher here, and everybody sticks together a little more, it seems like the artists support each other a lot here. I don’t know so much about LA and New York, if they are so supportive of each other.

JR: I know for the galleries, we’ve got some very supportive art dealer friends here, New York, and all over the country. I feel like our East Coast friends really appreciate talking to us because we’re just so real about everything. It’s nice to just really be real. It’s a different kind of industry. The kind of meetings that we have-- I laugh sometimes because I think if this was a board meeting at some huge corporation, the same feelings would be going on in the room, but nobody would say anything about it. It’s just super nice. We’re in the business of making people happy, and some people get that, and some people don’t. It just depends on where people's heads are at, if they’re an artist or a dealer.

BM: Is there anything else you would like to add about Varnish, or San Francisco, or art life?

JR: I think a lot of people think that it’s easy to be doing what we’re doing. I think that part of our job is to make look easy, and I think that goes for the artist too. They make it look easy because they are so good at it. It’s tough. It’s hard. Most of the time it’s completely wonderful, but when people assume that everyone’s just sort of hanging out and smoking pot in their studio, it pisses off an artist. If they assume the same thing about us, (that we're) just sitting there examining our glittering diamonds, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just funny, once people get it and understand, then it’s the happy place to go. It’s tough to get across to a lot of people in a lot of places in America, especially that nobody’s going to slap you across the face for not knowing who an artist is when you walk into a gallery. So for ten years we’ve been trying to get everyone to understand not to be scared. I wear jeans every day here, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’ll dress up for an event, but its not like walking into a bank.

KS: I think that’s the hard part about America, it’s sort of our job to remind everyone how important art is, and how we all need it in our lives.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Host Events at Varnish Fine Art

Host Events at the GalleryBook your next event at Varnish Fine Art for a fabulous experience in a beautiful setting. Varnish is a light-filled art gallery with floor to ceiling windows along a brick, pedestrian walkway in the heart of downtown San Francisco.
Located on Jessie Street between 1st & 2nd Streets and a stones throw from Market Street, Varnish is convenient to the Moscone Convention Center, major hotels, and public transportation.
Map to Varnish Fine Art
FAQ'sMax Capacity: 75 guests
Rates: $500 per hour
Minimum Rental: 2 hours
1 hour event set-up
Sound system with iPod hookup
Contact Us
16 Jessie Street, #C120, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415)433-4400

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Varnish Emporium: April Special Edition

Ordering Online is Easy from the Varnish Emporium
Just a few of our fabulous Emporium items are on display at the gallery. Check out the full selection of wonderful limited edition prints, books, art magazines, postcards, and fun art objects online where you can place an order and have it shipped to you lickety split!
You can also pick up anything you see online from us directly at the gallery while checking out our current exhibits. Visit our shelves and website often for the latest and greatest.
Please contact us directly for International orders:
(415) 433-4400 -or-

Link to the Emporium
Featured in the Emporium this month:
Frank Kozik
Gay Marriage for a Strong America
3 color silkscreen on paper
Limited Edition of 50
(From the Propaganda poster series)
Signing and Numbered by the artist
$65.00 includes shipping within the U.S.
Place an Order Now
16 Jessie Street, #C120, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415)433-4400